24 years old – wow! I remember it well! Brad and I had been married for a year. I had moved away from friends and family in Sydney and southern NSW to become a Queenslander .
While that has been quite the adventure, there have certainly been times when I genuinely missed the familiarity of places where I grew up, including my years at high school in Kiama and as a physio student in Sydney, and the many friends I made along the way.
So at 24, we were living in Toowoomba. I was working as a physiotherapist. I loved that role – the work, the people I was able to help and the team of people I worked alongside. Brad and I were part of a church community, and we also worked hard to stay in touch with friends and family in other places.
During that same year, we decided to move from Toowoomba to Roma to pursue another work opportunity and to serve in a rural community.
Central to our lives was Christian faith. And while that was helpful, it also presented challenges. Let me explain.
I had grown up as a Christian in a Christian home, for which I am grateful. This didn’t mean life was without its challenges. As a young person, my faith was tested in many ways. I encountered God’s love in very generous, real and comforting ways through some difficult times. And I always felt welcome, connected and called to serve in the worshipping communities I belonged to.
Brad’s journey was different from mine. Therefore, there were times in our marriage when we had very different opinions about the dynamics of family life, the way God works in our lives and patterns of worship, and yes, these caused conflict. Thankfully, with the help of wise counsellors, and galvanised by our commitment to one another and our family, we have navigated our way through to a place where we have a healthy respect for each other’s way of living and expressing Christian faith, and this is a great source of joy for us both.
I tell this story because I think it holds some wisdom for us as a church community who is turning 24.
At 24, I certainly had a strong sense of self – I knew what was important to me and what I valued in life. However, although I would have described myself as a strong Christian, I didn’t have sufficiently developed life skills to wrestle confidently with some of the challenges that threatened these, both in our marriage as well as other areas of life. As wisdom and maturity grew, year by year, I developed a better understanding of things like my innate strengths, my vulnerabilities, the things that are triggers or threats to my way of being in the world, and the ways in which I feel most at home as part of God’s family.
I’m so grateful for the richness and diversity of our community at Robina – for the wisdom I have gleaned from young and old, from those who have similar perspectives about life and faith to me, and from those whose perspectives differ. Each of our stories and life experiences has a place and helps form who we are as a church community.
In the weeks ahead, as we consider who we are and who we might become as a community strategically placed on the Gold Coast to engage in Christ’s mission in the world, I’m very excited to part of the next chapter in the story of Anglican Church Robina.